AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — A pair of Masters rookies grabbed the early lead at Augusta National on Thursday, while defending champion Adam Scott was off to a strong start in his quest to keep the green jacket.
Sweden's Jonas Blixt and American Kevin Stadler opened with 2-under-par 70s, making their way around the course just fine despite this being their Masters debut. They are among a record two dozen rookies in the field, which didn't include four-time winner Tiger Woods, out of the game until summer as he recovers from back surgery.
A player with plenty of experience, Miguel Angel Jimenez, was the leader on the course. The 50-year-old Spaniard, who has never won a major title, made the turn with a 4-under 32.
Scott pushed his score to 3 under with a birdie at the par-5 eighth hole, showing early on that he has the game to make a run at being the first back-to-back Masters champion since Woods in 2001 and 2002. Jack Nicklaus and Nick Faldo are the only other repeat champions in the tournament's 81-year history.
Also, Scott is attempting to grab the No. 1 spot in the world rankings for the first time in his career.
Two more veterans, Steve Stricker and Brandt Snedeker, also were at 3 under, while two-time major champion Rory McIlroy was lurking another shot back as he approached the turn.
Stadler is the part of the first father-son duo to play the Masters. His dad, Craig, was the 1982 champion, while Kevin earned a spot in the field with his first PGA Tour victory at Phoenix.